Genetics tailored to fit

Invitrogen to become exclusive worldwide distributor of Blue Heron\'s custom gene services

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CARLSBAD, Calif.—InvitrogenCorp. is set to become the exclusive worldwide distributor of synthetic genes producedby Blue Heron Biotechnology, under a new strategic development and distributionrelationship. Financial details of the deal were not disclosed, but accordingto Invitrogen's Nathan Wood, vice president of cloning and protein expression,his company will invest in Blue Heron in exchange the rights to distribute BlueHeron's custom gene synthesis services.
Blue Heron's proprietary GeneMaker platform reportedly cansynthesize any gene sequence, with "perfect accuracy" regardless of length orcomplexity, according to the companies. As Wood notes, researchers worldwideare increasingly turning to synthetic genes as a convenient, cost-effectivealternative for traditional cloning, and accurate and rapid synthesis ofsynthetic genes has allowed pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies to speedthe drug discovery process, making it a very important avenue of business topursue.
Invitrogen is already a leader in the market for recombinantcloning and protein expression products, as well as the provider of what isreportedly the largest fully sequenced human open reading frame clonecollections. Gene synthesis builds upon this strength, Wood says, and will beespecially useful in emerging fields such as synthetic biology.
"There was a big rush to finish work on human genome sequencing,"he notes. "Now, that has been completed but that information is being continuallyrefined and as new data have come out, there has been an increasing influenceon things like target identification and validation. The work of discovery isbecoming more intensely information driven with analysis of sequence variation,pathway analysis and data mining. With custom gene synthesis added to our mix, wecan be more targeted in this kind of work. You can cut out a lot of thediscovery work you had to do before and go right to the computer to get thespecific gene sequence you want."
Not only is synthetic biology an emerging market untoitself, Wood says, but it is increasingly coming into convergence with systemsbiology and thus becoming a more practical tool for drug discovery. The foundationfor this convergence to be successful, though, lies in efficient and reliablegene synthesis, and thus Blue Heron's expertise was a strong draw for thestrategic relationship.
The deal, of course, is important to Blue Heron as well,notes John Fess, the company's CEO. "Partnering with a life sciences leadersuch as Invitrogen is an important milestone in Blue Heron Bio's continuedgrowth and signals an important milestone for the overall gene synthesis marketas well," he says, adding that Invitrogen's "unmatched" distribution andmarketing channels will be critical to making Blue Heron's gene synthesisservices more widely available. As part of the agreement, the companies also willco-develop new products and services for the research and biopharmaceuticalmarkets.

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